Editor's note: The following Young Farmer column appears in the January 2016 issue of Dairy Herd Management.
"Find a job you love doing and you'll never work a day in your life."
This was a quote I first heard in high school and it stuck with me ever since. I consider myself fortunate I was able to identify my life's passion at an early age. For me that passion is agriculture, and it originated from growing up on my family's dairy farm. When I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville in 2012, I began my career, working in agricultural banking. At the same time I started this full-time position, I also worked out a deal to rent 20 acres of land from a neighbor to cash crop.
Since 2012, my farming operation has been continually evolving. Each year I've been fortunate to add more cropland to my operation through additional rented and purchased acres. I've also started and grown a full-service custom planting business. My most recent endeavor began late in 2013. I raise Holstein bull calves purchased as newborn calves, selling them as medium-weight feeder cattle.
Diversification has worked well over the past three years I've been on my own.
When I started farming, high commodity prices made cash cropping very profitable. As commodity prices began to fall, the livestock operation began to perform better, mitigating the lower revenue from cash crops. Custom planting balances the other two entities, because it isn't subject to supply and demand like crops and livestock.
Farming has taught me many lessons. One of the most important has been perseverance. Since 2012, I have maintained a full-time, off-farm career while growing my farming operation. This meant getting chores done before work, going to work and then coming home at night to work another 4-5 hours on farm things that had to get done.
It took a lot of work to come as far as I have with my farming operation, but when you want to make a dream become reality, you'll do whatever it takes to make that happen. There have been setbacks along the way, and there have been bad days. At the start of each day, though, I always look forward to working on my farm, and that's what motivates me to keep pursuing my goals.
Looking ahead, I plan to continue growing my farming operation. My primary goal is to take the experience I've gained from raising bull calves and use that knowledge to start a custom calf-raising operation. There is a need for custom raising wet calves in Northeast Wisconsin, an area highly concentrated with dairy farms. I've been networking with individuals in the industry, and want to begin raising calves in 2016. In addition, I plan to continue doing custom planting, and hope to purchase additional farmland as the right opportunities arise.
For readers of this article who, like me, are just beginning their farming careers, or are looking to pursue a career in farming, I would offer the following advice. First, get involved with various organizations in the agriculture industry. Networking has created many opportunities for me. Second, always look for opportunities. This could range from working with someone in your area to create a strategic partnership, to identifying a product or service in demand, but not being offered. Finally, don't be afraid to challenge yourself by taking some calculated risks. Some of my greatest successes in farming were the result of undertaking a project I wasn't fully sure how I was going to complete, or if I had the capability of completing it. My motto is "never give up." With that kind of mentality, anything is possible.
I invite anyone who is interested to like my Facebook page, "Kolb Farms." Or contact me via e-mail, [email protected].